It is What It Is

Phil Smith, Snoworks Director, discusses how to get the most out of every skiing day, every run, every change of direction. Whatever the weather, whatever the snow, whatever the terrain, whatever your level.

Photo: Team Snoworks enjoying the mountain conditions. Courtesy of Snoworks skier Rob Edwards.

The mountain environment is unbelievably varied. Every day is unique, every run a one off, every change of direction never to be repeated. For me this is what makes skiing such an amazing sport. It keeps a smile on my face everyday. You never know what to expect. That’s so exciting.

We think of snow as snow, the same, but it’s far from it. Every snow crystal is unique. That in itself blows my mind. The complexity of each snow crystal. Millions of these form to create what we ski on. Pisted, fresh, slushy, icy, soft, hard, deep, crusty, light, heavy. Each one of these unique in itself combined to create even more variation.

The mountain, the hill, the slope, every metre, cm, mm unique. Every mountain a one off. The shape, the steepness, the contours, the hollows, bumps, ridges, fall aways, drops. A one off, never repeated, unique.

If a ski racer, every course different, every change of direction unique, a one off.

The weather, every day different, the temperature, wind, humidity, light, cloud, mist, fog, snow, rain, sleet. I wake up in the morning open the curtains and marvel at what nature will bring us today. Savour the variation, enjoy the difference. Revel in the inconsistency. Expect the difference.

I often say, the only consistency in skiing is the inconsistency itself. Yet we train as though everything will be the same, we wake up hoping that it will be the same. Technique taught as though every run, every change of direction will be the same. Repeating the same movement patterns over and over again. 1000’s of times a day, every day, every run, every time we go skiing and wonder why it’s not working. Skiers look out the window and if it’s a whiteout they go back to sleep. Skiers talk at night was it a good day or a bad day? Wanting that perfect powder, clear blue sky, perfectly pisted run, perfect slalom course. We’re missing out on the variety of life. Wishing it were different. Wanting it to be the same. Perfect. But the perfection is in the imperfection itself. As the song goes, those perfect imperfections.

I listen to people chatting over a drink in the bar at night. “Today was not good, nothing worked.” I see wasted runs, wasted days. Lost never to be taken back. Gone, passed, history. Imagine if every day was a good day, every run was a great run, every change of direction was a beautiful change of direction. Whatever the weather, whatever the snow, whatever the terrain, whatever the course. Impossible? Very possible. A change of mindset, an acceptance of what is, a change of philosophy, a new approach. 

I see racers looking at ski courses, complaining about the course, the terrain, the snow. Too fast, too slow, too icy, too rutted, too steep, too flat, too offset, too straight, too soft. Imagine looking at a course with an inquisitiveness, an open mind, ready to be challenged, ready to learn, ready to adapt. Every race exciting, a challenge, a learning experience.

It is what it is.

To take on this it’s not just our mindset that needs to be as open as the weather, the mountain, the snow. Our skiing has to be as well. The way we train, the way we ski, the way we move. We have to be as adaptable and as varied as the mountains themselves. Every day different, every run different, every change of direction different.

The next time you go skiing get ready to experience everything. Get ready to learn from each day, every run, whatever the conditions, whatever the weather, whatever the terrain. If a ski racer whatever the course. Embrace it, take it on, accept it. Get ready to adapt your skiing. It will be different and different is good.

Skiing is a dance with the mountain, the weather, the snow. To be embraced. What will I learn today? What will I experience today? What lesson will I be taught today? Every day, every run, every change of direction, a lesson, something to be learnt, added to the memory banks, woven into the tapestry of life, part of you.

Enjoy the terrain however it is, the weather whatever it is, the snow in every variation. This takes practice in itself. An acceptance of ‘what is’. Gradually but surely you will begin to enjoy everything. You’ll recognise the enjoyment of working out how to manage the situation. That is the true goal, the journey itself.

Recognise frustration, disappointment for what it is. It’s part of learning, part of working things out, part of the journey. Part of the wiggly line, the ups and downs, the twists and turns.

Wake up, ready to take on the day whatever it brings. If something does not go to plan then that’s the plan itself. Expect the unexpected. Embrace the unpredictable. That is skiing.

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Phil Smith is founder of Snoworks All-Mountain Ski Courses. Snoworks runs Ski Courses and Race Camps throughout the year where you can embrace these tips along with much more to become a competent ‘open’ skier learning to cope with everything the mountain throws your way.